Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Can We Teach An Old Dog New Tricks?

I recently evaluated a new teacher during a classroom observation. This teacher recently retired from another career so he is not a “young” person. When I arrived in the classroom I noticed a promethean board in the room and was thrilled to see the students get up to use it. I noticed that the teacher didn’t do much with the board but the students were excited about using it. As the teacher taught his lesson, the students were up and down at the board doing math problems and sharing their work with the class. I was impressed that the students knew their way around the tools so well since they have only moved into this room about a month ago. I noticed that many of the students were more engaged in learning because of this piece of technology than the last time I observed this class. The last lesson I observed took place in a portable and the whole class was taught using a lecture and completing paper worksheets. What a difference this was!

When I talked to the teacher, he told me that he at first was not thrilled with using this new technology because he was from the “old school.” But when his ten year old grandson knew more about technology than he did, he felt he needed to learn so he wasn’t left behind in the cold. This teacher noticed that even his students were more involved in learning than before so he saw a positive effect from this and knew that he needed to learn more. He went to the training that the district gives but like anything else, you need to use it in order to learn. In fact, the students were so curious about the promethean board that he has pretty much given them a lot of freedom to explore and teach him the different things to do with it.

I watched them work with solving equations with exponents. The students were learning the FOIL method (first, outer, inner, last) and worked out all the steps on the board. They drew different color arrows to show which step they were doing. This helped the other students who were having difficulties see what was done. I noticed the slower students were actually paying attention and working out problems instead of acting up like they did the last time. All of the students were engaged in learning and not one student was distracted. Amazing! Each student couldn’t wait for their turn to get up to the board and work out a problem, even the ones who were having difficulties.

Near the end of class, there was some extra time left over and the students asked the teacher if they could show me all the different things that the board could do. They moved tools they felt were most used in this class and discussed which ones were not needed and why. They also tried new things too. When the bell rang to leave the class, they almost didn’t want to leave.

If we could only get students involved in all their learning with the same enthusiasm as they tackled this. I think students want to see new ways of teaching instead of the “old school.” I think they want to learn but we need to find ways to engage them and excite them. Seeing this today gave me hopes for our system.

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